Story at a glance

  • A 6-year-old girl was declined a U.S. entry despite a medical letter describing her need for urgent care.
  • With Down syndrome and a heart problem, she may require surgery, and advocates say she is developmentally delayed.
  • She is relegated to the MPP program, where she awaits legal decisions of her case.

At the U.S.-Mexican border, reports of a Salvadoran immigrant girl with Down syndrome and a heart condition being denied entry to the United States are circulating.

The 6-year-old immigrant, who remains unnamed, is reportedly seeking entry to the U.S. for medical treatment. Traveling with her mother and brother, she was first placed in Mexico to await legal rulings that would decide her immigration eligibility under the Trump administration’s Migrant Protection Protocols (MPPs). Her country of origin remains unknown.

A doctor and immigration attorney who have been advocating on her behalf are concerned that she risks catching an infection that could be fatal. 


According to Kim Hunter, a Border Rights Fellow for Lawyers For Good Government's Project Corazon who is working with the girl and her family, and Maria DeLuca, a volunteer doctor stationed in Matamoros, Mexico, the girl is “pale and has poor blood circulation” and can only speak limited two-to-three word sentences. 

A specialist in Philadelphia had agreed to treat her, but border patrol agents denied her entry on grounds that she “was not facing a medical emergency.” Hunter and DeLuca had a medical letter presented to agents outlining her potential need for surgery unavailable in Central America.

As a result, she will be awaiting more court proceedings in Mexico. 

“That sounds like we’re just waiting for the kids to start dying before we take action,” DeLuca told outlets. “If [Customs and Border Patrol (CBP)] continues to refuse to allow these sick children to get the care they need, we could potentially see more deaths.” 

DeLuca refers to the deaths of five migrant minors that have occurred during their stays in immigrant detention centers, despite reports of illness. 

Charlene D’Cruz, another Border Rights Fellow in the same program as Hunter, said that border patrol tends to not let sick MPP immigrants across the border “unless they are almost dying.” 


DeLuca echoed this complaint, saying that while CBP states that each child and immigrant goes through a medical screening process, these evaluations are often “not thorough enough” and not always done by expert pediatricians. 

A spokesperson for the CBP said that while they cannot discuss individual cases, migrants “who are not otherwise amenable to MPP are turned over” to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for placement. The rest are returned to Mexico. 

For now, the girl awaits legal proceedings with tens of thousands of other immigrants forced into the MPP program. 


Published on Jan 17, 2020